Connect to share and comment

Honduras, backed in a corner

Do Zelaya and Micheletti have any choice but to sign the San Jose accord?

Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya talks with his supporters at Las Colinas farm near the border of Honduras with Nicaragua July 28, 2009. Honduras' coup leaders came under new pressure on Tuesday to allow Zelaya's return to power as the U.S. revoked visas for four members of the de facto government. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)

SAN JOSE — Honduras’ de facto president holds onto power in the capital Tegucigalpa. The country’s Stetson-sporting president in exile holds camp across the border in Nicaragua. Meanwhile, a proposed solution drafted in Costa Rica awaits their signatures.

Over a month after the June 28 predawn raid on the home of President Manuel Zelaya that flung him into exile, the proposed San Jose Accord — which calls for Zelaya’s presidency to be restored — is being touted as the only hope for putting the Honduran debacle to rest.

“If this agreement fails it’ll certainly be much more difficult for any other proposal to be accepted by both sides,” said a beleaguered-looking Costa Rica President Oscar Arias to television crews, minutes after announcing his 11-step program for a neighbor on the brink of chaos.

With sanctions imposed on Honduras, a freeze on aid, exclusion from international organizations and this week’s revocation by the U.S. State Department of several Honduran officials’ diplomatic visas, the international clamp on one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries is growing tighter.

Honduras’s embattled de facto government — led by former Congressional President Roberto Micheletti — may finally be ready to negotiate. “The way forward is to work with Costa Rican President Oscar Arias,” Micheletti wrote recently of the U.S.-backed mediator in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal. “We are ready to continue discussions once the Supreme Court, the attorney general and Congress analyze President Arias’ proposal.”

The Honduran army has also said it will support any agreement reached in Costa Rica.

Since a pajama-clad Zelaya first arrived at Costa Rica’s doorstep, Arias has said that no solution can be reached without restoring Zelaya’s presidency.

The San Jose document, which Arias drafted after two rounds of intense talks with the Honduran rivals in his living room, aims at the far-off goal of brokering a “reconciliation” deal and creating a power-sharing government to run a country that has grown bitterly polarized.

Here are some of the key points of the draft accord:

  • Zelaya would be reinstated as president, but in an all-party “government of unity and national reconciliation.” This power-sharing experiment would rule under the supervision of an international commission, possibly with the Organization of American States (OAS) at its helm.
  • Zelaya must refrain from calling a national assembly vote on anything with a whiff of constitutional reform.
  • The Honduran Congress would grant amnesty for “the political crimes committed during this conflict, before and after June 28.” There would be a six-month moratorium on any legal actions over events leading up to that date.
  • The presidential election could come one month before its scheduled Nov. 29 date.